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Cubs Off to a Classic Start; Improvements To Be Made

First week in the books

The first official week of baseball is now complete and we learned, once again, why the experts get paid the big bucks. Let’s start in Detroit where the Tigers thanked all sportswriters near and far for picking them to win the World Series by starting the season 0–6. And then of course, ladies and gentleman, let me present to you your 2008 St. Louis Cardinals. Picked by many for fifth place in the lowly NL central. How about a 5–1 opening week with the best ERA in the league? What does the Tigers opening flop and the Redbirds strong start mean?

Nothing, of course.

This is baseball. 156 games to go.

The 2008 Cubs in action

Spring training is exactly that: training. Every year a few players have a torrid spring and a few players struggle mightily. Two sackers the Cubs are really counting on this year, newly acquired Kosuke Fukudome and silent leader Derrek Lee, had poor springs. Fukudome hit just above .200 with little power and Lee didn’t even reach the Mendoza line.

What does it mean?

Nothing, of course…

Minus (–) Plus (+)

Now I’d like to introduce a new section of 2ON2OUT: Each week I’ll write a little bit about some positives and negatives and then, I’d like to hear from you. What did you like this week? What pissed you off? Here are my thoughts…

Minus (–) to: Piniella for using Wood in the ninth inning of the opening game.

Isn’t this where the closer is supposed to be used? Not in this case. The game was tied so it wasn’t a save opportunity. With the cold weather and a heated rivalry this was not an ideal first crack for any new closer, especially one that will be so closely scrutinized in his first few weeks. Bring in one of the other fellas and wait until there’s at least a one run margin for error.

Minus (- ) to: Piniella for waiting until game three of the Brewers series to steal on Jason Kendall.

In 2007, including his time with the Cubs, Kendall threw out five of 57 attempted base stealers. Absolutely no excuse for waiting; we paid for the scouting report last season. There were a number of situations where taking second would have taken away a double play or put someone in scoring position before a base knock. Many times instead, the cubs simply left the man on first. Finally in game three they stole four bases and look at that, they won. Go figure.

Minus (–) to: The Cubs’ recent season starts, especially at home.

When is the last time the Cubs came out of the gate hot? I’m not sure I ever remember a time they rolled off to a 5–1 or 6–0 start opening week. In 2006, they rattled off five wins, including a sweep of the Cards, in their first seven games, but you’d like to think they could have come out with a little more fire against the beer makers. Starting the week 1–3 was disappointing, to say the least.

Plus (+) to: Jim Hendry

For outbidding all those teams for Kosuke Fukudome. Wow. Did anyone see this coming? I knew he’d be better than what he showed in Spring training, but how about a .542 OBP and some huge clutch hits in his first six MLB games? His opening day three-run shot to tie the game was one for the highlight reel. Best part is, he looks completely unfazed by Wrigley and all her nuthouse fans.

Plus (+) to: Derrek Lee

The Cubs homered in every game this week, led by D Lee’s three long balls. He was fantastic this week, particularly against Houston, and finished the week at a .400 clip. Maybe now we can stop talking about his wrist injury from 2006?

Plus (+) to: Kerry Wood

For bouncing back from that awful opening day outing to record saves in each of the Cubs’ three victories. A 1-2-3 closer? Is it possible? We bow our heads to Rod Beck in memory of a great fella who couldn’t count to three in order. At least, not from the mound.

Plus (+) to: Potassium

Yes, once again Big Carlos Z had trouble with cramping. Once again, it was in his wrist/forearm. It forced him to leave the opening game after six solid innings. This time, Carlos actually sought some help and did something other than drink more Gatorade (does Gatorade really do anything to help hydration? Michael Jordan can still sell anything). The specialist he saw told him to lay off the caffeine before starts and to raise his potassium intake. Carlos loaded up on the bananas and led the Cubs to a one-run win to close out the week.

Bottom of the Inning

The Cubs finish opening week two games back of the Brewers and the Cardinals, who thoroughly enjoyed their weekend series with the Giants and the Nationals, respectively. The Cubbies head to Pennsylvania for three against the Bucs and then three against the Phils. Let’s see if they can play a little more loose on the road. I’d like to see more from Lilly and more of the same from Dempster. How about you?

See you next week, folks.

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